Fun facts for every Low-A West team

California-based league home to beloved churros, ordained bears and reptile ghosts

April 30th, 2021

After undergoing a substantial reorganization, Minor League Baseball is embarking upon a new era in 2021. There are now 120 teams competing in 11 newly named leagues, comprising four levels of play (Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A). This is the 11th -- and final -- edition of a league-by-league article series, highlighting one unique fact about each team.

All eight teams in the Low-A West play in the state of California. Seven of these teams were previously members of the California League, and are therefore quite familiar with one another. The new kid on the block, so to speak, is Fresno. The Fresno Grizzlies have dropped down to the Low-A level, following a 22-year run as members of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

What follows is one unique, and often strange and surprising, fact about each team in the Low-A Southeast.

North Division

Fresno Grizzlies
Colorado Rockies affiliate since 2021

Grizzlies mascot Parker T. Bear is an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, whose motto is "We are all children of the same universe." During the team's 2016 "My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show" promotion, Parker used his ministerial authority to oversee three in-game weddings. A segment of the evening's fans, finding the ritualized bonding of two souls in eternal love to be more interesting than a Minor League Baseball game, viewed the ceremonies while enjoying $2 cans of Tecate beer.

Modesto Nuts
Seattle Mariners affiliate since 2017
Modesto hosted a California League team in nearly every season since 1946, and no less than seven alumni have gone on to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The last Cooperstown-enshrined player to appear in Modesto was Rickey Henderson, who stole 95 bases for the Modesto A's in 1977 at the age of 18. Rickey stole seven bases in a game on May 26 that season against Fresno, equaling a California League record that had been established two years prior by Lee Mazzilli.

San Jose Giants
San Francisco Giants affiliate since 1988

The Giants are one of 76 teams participating in Minor League Baseball's Copa de la Diversión program, an Hispanic outreach initiative featuring Spanish language alternate team identities. San Jose's Copa identity is the Churros, which is in large part an homage to iconic Municipal Stadium vendor Hippolito "Super Churros Man" Cerda. "I say, 'Churro, churro, churro time, best churros!'" said Cerda, speaking to in 2016. "And then I just try to make them laugh. I like to play around with the people."

Stockton Ports
Oakland Athletics affiliate since 2005

The California League was established in 1941, and Stockton was a charter member. Over the course of the city's long Minor League Baseball history, its team has been most often been known as the Ports. In 2000 and 2001, however, Stockton fielded a team known as the Mudville Nine. This moniker was an homage to Ernest Thayer's poem "Casey at the Bat," which takes place in a "Mudville" locale that some believe was a stand-in for Stockton.

South Division

Inland Empire 66ers
Los Angeles Angels affiliate since 2011

The San Bernardino Spirit were established in 1987, and San Bernardino -- home of the 66ers -- has hosted a Minor League team in every season since. Ken Griffey Jr. opened the 1988 season with the Spirit, compiling a 1.007 OPS and swiping 32 bases over 58 ballgames. The photo of Griffey used for his iconic 1989 Upper Deck rookie card was actually taken in San Bernardino, with the company doctoring it so that he is depicted wearing a Mariners cap. In 2016 the 66ers gave away a Ken Griffey Jr. bobblehead, in conjunction with his election to the Hall of Fame.

Lake Elsinore Storm
San Diego Padres affiliate since 2001
One of the most unique annual promotions in all of Minor League Baseball is the Lake Elsinore Storm's "Nothing Night." "Anti-promotion" would perhaps be a better way to describe it, as the evening is dedicated to erasing as many elements of the fan experience as possible. On "Nothing Night," the Storm don't charge admission or sell food. The videoboard and PA system are turned off, there are no between-inning contests and Thunder the mascot is nowhere to be found. All that's left is baseball, and that's the point.

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate since 2011
The Quakes are situated just 40 miles to the east of their parent Los Angeles Dodgers. As such, their home of LoanMart Field often hosts Dodgers players for rehab assignments as they work their way back from injury. In 2019 alone, 10 members of the Dodgers played in Rancho Cucamonga in this capacity: Austin Barnes, Matt Beaty, Tony Cingrani, Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro, Rich Hill, AJ Pollock, Corey Seager, and Chris Taylor.

Visalia Rawhide
Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate since 2007
The Visalia Rawhide won the 2019 California League championship, breaking a title drought that stretched back to 1978. Accurately or not, this barren period was often attributed to the Curse of the Alligator. The story goes as follows: Joe Charboneau, a member of Visalia's 1978 championship squad, kept a pet alligator in his bathtub named Chopper. After the gator met an untimely demise, his raging reptilian ghost put a hex on the franchise that lasted until it was finally broken in 2019.